Mobilizing the Mobility Ecosystem to Respond to the Covid-19 Pandemic
It is of course impossible to go anywhere, or to “shelter in place” or self quarantine and to avoid news coverage of the virus, infection counts, death counts, which new country or state is enforcing quarantines, which ones seem oblivious to the risks and more.
Obviously, one aspect of life that has at least temporarily changed is mobility. All of us in the mobility ecosystem have been acutely aware of the challenges to the use of public transit when citizens are being told to avoid being around groupings of 10+ people. Some services, like taxi services have ground to a halt, some countries and regions are advising people away from all forms of public transit, even micromobility operators are shutting down operations in quarantined regions like Spain where my company, Iomob is based.
In Spain we have been under national quarantine since last weekend. Yet, as I recently wrote, the quarantine has not stopped Iomob from innovating and at the same time reflecting and acting on how our next generation Mobility as a Service (MaaS) platform could be of service to humanity in times like these. We reacted quickly to an urgent call for European startups with technologies that could help the region address the crisis. From the time we learned about the call and decided to go for it, we had 48 hours to develop a rigorous proposal to the exciting opportunity. The original deadline was Wednesday, March 18th (which we hit) but it then got extended to Friday the 20th. In those few days, the response of the global mobility community as we sought support from different stakeholders has truly been astonishing and overwhelming.
We received 22 letters of support (and even more email and LinkedIn offers to help), for our proposal to modify our platform and algorithms to factor in social distance. Whether people are quarantined or just trying to avoid exposure in places where no quarantine is in effect, Iomob will add a variable to our intermodal algorithms to account for modes which can better accommodate for ensuring social distance. All of us working in mobility have an interest in improving lives and reducing global carbon emissions as well, but to also have the possibility to save lives and reduce the spread of the pandemic helped to rally some of the most important and respect organizations in the sector, like UITP (International Association of Public Transport) and POLIS which is “the network of European cities and regions cooperating for innovative transport solutions”. The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) representing 200 of the largest global corporations, has a growing focus on cities and mobility and also endorsed Iomob’s proposal.
Some of the biggest names in Mobility as a Service have offered their formal backing of the project not just as an endorsement but in some cases with an eye towards partnering on dissemination and deployment such as ITS Finland, MaaS Alliance, MaaS America and MaaS Global, the latter being the largest B2C MaaS player in the world!
Research groups, consultancies and mobility organizers also jumped in to support our proposal including Anteverti (organize the Smart City and Smart Mobility Expo and consult globally on the topics), CARNET, Autonomy (major Paris mobility event), BestMile, ISOCARP (Internatioinal Society of City and Regional Planners), Redmint and New Cities Foundation. SixFingers, a design thinking consultancy with deep expertise in human-centered design, who has led Iomob’s user research for our project with Renfe, also jumped in.
Also public and quasi public transportation operators like ATM, (Barcelona´s regional transportation authority), LNER (London North Eastern Railway) and Skane Region in Sweden where Iomob is already contracted to deploy a MaaS solution and will be one of the first to receive our refined social distance algorithms. Also from the public sector, Accio the Catalan innovation agency signed up to support Iomob.
Last but not least, two organizations who have been supporting Iomob from the early days did not let us down either. Iomob has been involved in two of Wayra’s startup accelerators. We participated in the Waya UK/Transport Systems Catapult accelerrator in 2018–2019 as well as TrenLab, a Madrid-based accelerator done in patnership with Renfe, the Spanish rail operator, and home to our first live trials where we hope to add the social distancing dimension as well. Finally, B4Motion, a Madrid-based mobility investor and venture studio offered their support. They have already invested in Iomob’s current round. But B4Motion also has a deep team of software engineers and they engaged with us during the proposal development to refine our presentation of the crowdsourcing element of our proposal so that during such pandemics users can help provide real-time insights on the capacity of mass transit vehicles (buses, trains, metros) which will then be factored by our intermodal algorithms.
In conclusion, the Iomob team, along with our consulting partner Factual who helped us pull off the proposal and to recruit partners are still in amazement at the speed of response from the global mobility community. We are grateful to all these great organizations who rallied around Iomob to support a proposal to enable us to collectively contribute to achieve what is likely to enable people around Europe (and later around the world) to move more safely by adhering to what is like to become the catch phrase of the year or the decade, “social distance”. While this project proposes to mitigate the spread of contagion, it also showed us that despite much of the world being in quarantine, the mobility community can mobilize its capabilities in service of humanity!
Iomob, which stands for the Internet of Mobility, headquartered in Barcelona, Spain, has built a white label Mobility as a Service solution which combines proprietary algorithms enabling multimodal combinations of public and private services and an SDK that allows end users to discover mobility services, receive multimodal combinations for their journeys, book and pay for a range of mobility services via our client’s own apps. Iomob has won numerous open innovation challenge awards from organisations like Ford Motors, Renfe and Sweden’s Sustainable Mobility Challenge. Iomob has also participated in prestigious startup accelerators such as Techstars and Wayra and in 2020 won the TravelTech Europe startup first prize (London), 2019 Best Mobility Startup of 2019 at the South Summit, The Public Choice Award from ERTICO in 2019, Top Mobility Startup in the Federation of International Automobiles (FiA) Startup Challenge and selected Top 100 Smart Cities Partners by Newsweek.
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